Samuel Lee Boyd

Did he trade the mountains for the sea?
Boyd was the rear brakeman and flagman on passenger train Number Two. When the train wrecked into the washout at Thaxton, Boyd was on the rear platform of the last sleeper car, Calmar. He was uninjured and was one of the heroes that terrible night.1

Boyd was the son of Samuel A. Boyd, the owner of a candy store and “ice cream saloon” in Lynchburg.2 1870 and 1880 census records indicate Boyd was born around 1863 which means he was in his mid-twenties when the wreck occurred. His father was from Ireland, and his mother, Mary, was from Maryland.3 4 The birthplaces of his parents may serve as clues to where Boyd lived out the remaining years of his life.

In the 1890 Lynchburg City Directory, Boyd was listed as a N&W employee living at home with his father.5 In the years afterward, it is not entirely clear where life led him, but there is a small bit of evidence that points towards Newport News, Virginia.

On October 3, 1933, an obituary was printed in the Daily Press newspaper in Newport News for 70-year-old Samuel Lee Boyd. The obituary mentions that Samuel had been a resident of Newport News for “a number of years”, which indicates he was not a native. His wife, Mabel Boyd, survived him, but another possible clue is found in the mention of his two surviving brothers. G.B. Boyd, of Mullens, West Virginia, and Walter A. Boyd of Lynchburg.6

The Samuel Lee Boyd on the train did have a brother named George (although his middle initial was not listed as “B”), and a brother named Walter A. Boyd according to 1870 and 1880 census records. The 1890 Lynchburg City Directory also listed Walter A. Boyd at the same address as Samuel Lee Boyd.

The connection between the Samuel Lee Boyd who died in Newport News in 1933 is not limited to the matching name and hometown of his brother Walter. The 1933 obituary mentions that Boyd died at his home at 217 Chesapeake Avenue. In the 1930 census, the Samuel L. Boyd living at 217 Chesapeake was married to Mabel, his father’s birthplace was Ireland, and his mother’s birthplace was Maryland.7 This information matches the details from the 1870/1880 census for the Samuel Lee Boyd that was on the train.

The similarities between the Samuel Lee Boyd of the 1933 Newport News obituary and the Samuel Lee Boyd that was on the train are interesting but certainly nothing concrete. His age, name, the residence and name of his brother Walter, the birthplaces of his mother and father are all exact matches but could just as easily be coincidences. I have provided the information here in case someone out there has the missing piece of evidence that confirms the connection. If the Newport News resident was the same man, he may have been there as early as 1902. A Samuel L. Boyd was listed as a saloon owner at 2215 Warwick Avenue in the 1902 Newport News City Directory.8 A photograph of the gravesite for the 1933 Samuel Lee Boyd can be found here.

Do you have more information about Samuel Lee Boyd? If you think he might have been an ancestor of yours, or if you have some additional information that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!


  1. Fourteenth Annual Report of The Railroad Commissioner of the State of Virginia, J.H. O’Bannon Superintendent of Public Printing, Richmond, VA, 1890: p. xlv.
  2. “The Railroad Disaster”, The Daily News (Lynchburg, VA), July 3, 1889, Volume 47, Number 143, p. 3.
  3. “United States Census, 1870,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 Feb 2014), Samuel L Boyd in household of Samuel A Boyd, Virginia, United States; citing p. , family 430, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 000553137.
  4. Census record for Samuel L. Boyd, Year: 1880; Census Place: Lynchburg, Campbell, Virginia; Roll: 1359; Family History Film: 1255359; Page: 283C; Enumeration District: 051;.
  5. J.P. Bell Company, Bell’s Lynchburg City Directory, 1890, p.47.
  6. “Samuel Boyd Dies At Residence Here”, Daily Press (Newport News, VA), October 3, 1933.
  7. “United States Census, 1930,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 Feb 2014), Samuel L Boyd, Newport News, Newport News (Independent City), Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0015, sheet , family 211, NARA microfilm publication.
  8. Hill Directory Company’s Directory of Newport News, Hampton, Phoebus and Old Point, Virginia, 1902, p.43.

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